Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Miller Blog On Brief Hiatus

Due to an upcoming vacation, there will be very little activity in this blog for the next two weeks. I may manage to get one up by week's end, but likely you won't see anything new until the first week of June. But please, don't forget to come back!


Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Page 10

Henry accepts Mona's denial that he had just seen her with the wrestler. The possibility that he may be wrong is chalked up to the fact that he'd been drinking champagne; but, he sarcastically adds that he must have just seen her "astral body."

10.1 I just had a long talk with one of the interns
Miller claims to have just returned from seeing one of the interns at the mental hostital Stasia is staying at. He assures Mona that Stasia is OK, due to the talk with the interns. The hospital she is staying at is never identified, but it would have been within distance of public transit in New York City. From what I can tell, the largest psychiatric centre in NYC (and the world) at the time was the Manhattan State Hospital (now the Manhattan Psychiatric Center). The hospital was run by the NY State Dept of Mental Hygiene and was located on Ward's Island. [NOTE: In Ferguson's Henry Miller: A Life, p.135, he states that Jean was committed to the Bellevue mental hospital, but I don't know the source of this assersion].

10.2 Charlotte Russe
Henry claims to have brought some charlotte russe to Stasia during the visit. Charlotte Russe is a molded sponge and custard cake surrounded by ladyfingers. There's some significance in the fact that he chose this dessert, as "russe" is Russian in French (and Stasia is portrayed as being Russian). It seems to be a joke, though. Mona suggests he's exhausted and should go to bed.

10.3 Mona: "I just left Statsia. I got here about three hours ago."
Countering Henry's claim, Mona suggests that she had just seen Stasia and returned three hours ago. On page 9, it claims that this conversation occurs at 6 AM [9.17]. It seems odd to me that a mental hospital would allow visitors as late as 1 or 2 AM, when I assume Mona left. Not sure if she's lying as well. Mona says she has a long story to tell about the visit, but Henry surprises her by sticking to his lie that he'd just seen her and already heard the story. They then retire to bed, at which time Mona laughs to herself. An admission that they're both lying to one another?

10.4 As a good night fillip I whispered...
A "fillip" (I did not know) is a flick of the finger and apparently the origin of the term "flip the bird." Bascially, Henry is getting in a last word, a final volley in their battle of "truths."

10.5 Bertha Filigree of Lake Titicaca
Miller repeats the mockery of Stasia's importance as expressed on page 8 [8.25].

10.6 Spengler
The German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) is referenced by Miller throughout his life and appears to have been a great influence on him (especially Decline Of The West). Here, Miller starts a new paragraph, stating that he would usually find himself "musing about ancient cultures" after reading Spengler, but that "often" he would instead find himself in bed "fully clothed," trying to sort out the lies of Mona and Stasia.

10.7 Elie Faure
Another favourite author (1873-1937) of Henry's, referenced often. The same from the above entry applies here.

10.8 Stasia acquired the habit of lying to please Mona
Half this page explores the subject of Truth as it loosely exists with Stasia and Mona. Although Henry describes Stasia as "an essentially truthful soul," he blames the infleunce of the pseudo-lesbian relationship she shares with Mona as being the cause of her tendancy to lie (though not as bad as Mona, with whom it's always a "lie out of the whole cloth.")

When confronted with the lie, Miller explains, Mona "throw[s] a hysterical fit or stalk[s] out of a room on stilts;" Stasia gives a broad, angelic smile. When Henry feels he's getting somewhere with Stasia, Mona "whisks her off."

10.9 being a Romanoff bastard
Henry continues to defend Stasia (he's actually very kind to her in Nexus; Mona/June less so, except in moments of renewed love), stating that, even when Stasia lies, there's usually a grain of truth. Here, it's the fact that she's in some way related to the Imperial Russian family of Romanovs. He never defines the connection, but, considering the family is related to 24 other noble Russian families, it doesn't seem so outrageous a claim.

This Romanoff connection is mentioned a few times in Crazy Cock (in which Stasia--Jean Kronski--is characterized as "Vanya.") "'She's a Russian, then?' She was not only a Russian, he learned, but she was a princess, a Romanoff, a bastard Romanoff. So that's how it was! Not only a genius, but a princess to boot." (Crazy Cock, p.84).

The final lines on page 10 lead into page 11: a description of the conversations that Henry, Mona and Stasia have had about their childhoods.

<--- Previous Page 9 ----> Next Pages 11 & 12

Friday, May 12, 2006

Benedictine, Miller-Style

One of Henry Miller's favourite alcoholic beverages in the late 1920s-early 30s seems to have been the French herbal liqueur, Benedictine. ("He used to end his meals with a Benedictine or a kummel," wrote Brassai of Miller in 1960 - Happy Rock, p. 92). I finally bought myself a bottle of it last week. Not being a liquor connaiseur, I can only describe it as an alcoholic version of chinotto pop (i,e Brio). It's got a bit of a cough syrup taste but offers interesting revelations when you savour it in your mouth, like the subtle flavour of sage (which is not something I would normally think would work in a liquor drink). On ice, it's very nice. I haven't mixed it yet, though it's also bottled as B & B: Benedictine and brandy.

Miller references the drink in Letters To Emil, Plexus and Nexus. From these texts, I've concocted just a few of my own Henry Miller recipes for Benedictine:

The Dark Secret
Ingredients: Benedictine, Henry Miller, Mona, O'Mara, Osiecki, a retired baker from Weehawken, cake.
1. Take Mona. Allow her to flirt.
2. Add a retired, cultured baker from Wehawken to Mona. Her flirting will make him feel compelled to ply her with fine foods and a bottle of Benedictine.
3. Take Miller and an old friend, O'Mara. Mix in Miller's apartment. Socialize well, allow to reminisce. Then add Mona with the bottle of Benedictine. The mixture may not congeal completely.
4. Interupt the process by adding Osiecki through a window. Immediately add cake and Benedictine to Osiecki. He will ask what it is, ask where one gets it, then look at everyone as if they are possession of a dark secret. Talk of lice will follow; this is normal.
5. Allow O'Mara to sip the Benedictine, in order to loosen him up to talk about his brother, who'd acciedentally killed a man in Texas.
6. Enjoy!
(Plexus, pgs. 110, 114, 117)

The Orgy Prelude
Ingredients: Benedictine, Miller, Mona, Ulric, Marjorie, French ice cream, whisky.
This simple drink involves a married couple, a male friend and a female friend. Peel the pariticpants of clothing and let them enjoy a meal in the nude. Allow French ice cream to swim in the Benedictine and whisky; serve immediately after the meal. It is normal if Marjorie "fiddles" with Ulric's "pecker" during the meal. Orgy to follow. Serves 4.
(Plexus, pg. 382)

The Glowing Entrail
Ingredients: Benedictine, Henry Miller, a flask, lunch, Sunday, Paris.
1. Allow Miller to sit in Paris for five days.
2. When it looks like a wonderful Sunday, stir Miller throughout Paris, using his feet. Be sure to pass along the Seine.
3. You will see Miller arriving at rue Antoine. Impress him with the Parisien ghetto scene and the cheap liquor.
4. Add a little flask of Benedcitine to Miller (should only cost you 2-1/2 francs, or, 10 cents American). This ingredient is best added at lunch time.

"Finest stuff in the world, warms the gizzards, makes the entrails glow."

5. Add the Miller and Benedictine mixture to a restaurant. Here, the excess Benedictine (about a snifter's worth) will be aborbed by a waitress. ("it doesn't do to walk into a restaurant and bring your own codials.")
6. Repeat every few weeks.
(Letters To Emil, pg. 21)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Annotated Nexus - Page 9

Continuing from page 8, Miller writes about a quotation transcribed onto a piece of butcher paper by Stasia [8.24] (Jean Kronski).

9.1 “That strange thinker, N Federov, a Russian of the Russians, will found his own original form of anarchism, one hostile to the State.”
Nikolai Federov (1829-1903) was a Russian philosopher who advocated a pro-love, anti-death position; an immortalist, he sought to advance science in the name of preventing or resurrecting from death. I couldn't locate this exact quote anywhere, but the words seems paraphrased from this 1915 tribute by N.A. Berdyaev, which includes this quote:

"What is it with this strange thinker, with this extraordinary man, so held in high regard by the greatest of Russian people? (In Russia at present after the Revolution the ideas of Fedorov have become popular and there has formed a Fedorov current of thought. He answers to the instincts for action, community and a radical restructuring of the world.)"

Miller uses the fact that Stasia wrote this down as evidence that she "is in her right mind," probably because Miller himself sympathizes with the sentiment of individual freedom in opposition to forces of social oppression ("the State").

9.2 Kronski
This would be Dr. Kronski, whom we'll soon see is treating Stasia in the "Obervation Ward" [8.26]. In reality, Kronski--given Jean's last name in Miller's fiction--was his friend Emil Conason. He also appears in Sexus and Plexus.

9.3 bughouse
Euphemism for a mental hospital.

9.4 Yesterday, was it?
Miller is trying to recall the day on which the follwoing event occured, "about four in the morning." Due to the snow mentioned on this page and the fact that the Chrsitmas scene comes later, I would place this day within the month of November 1926.

9.5 while walking to the subway station
It seems to closest subway station to Henry's home on Remsen Street in Brooklyn would have been the Clark Street Station, which opened in 1919 (I'm no expert, so figure it out yourself on this NYC subway map). Clark is four blocks north of Remsen. Court Street Station would now be closer, but it didn't open until 1936. Henry was out looking for Mona (June). [see 9.14] [the entrance for this station is beneath the awning for Hotel St. George, seen at left from http://www.mpinto.org/wonderland/index16.html]

9.6 Mona
Though she's been alluded to, this is the first time Henry mentions her by name in Nexus. This is June Mansfield Miller, his second wife.

9.7 wrestler friend Jim Driscoll
Henry thinks he sees Mona walking through the snow with this other man. My research has not uncovered any significant New York wrestlers named Jim or James Driscoll. Probably just a local amateur jock. Henry's concern is they look too happy and joyous together, "Free as meadow larks." [see my post regarding the possibility that this is actually Nat Pendleton, pro wrestler and actor].

9.8 “Hark, hark, the lark at heaven’s gate sings!”
This quote follows the last bit about meadow larks. It's from Shakespeare's Cymbeline [image at left]. It's part of a song lyric within the play, used by a character to woo his love interest (according to the analysis on Phrases.org).

9.9 Osiecki's flat
While tailing Mona and the wrestler, Henry finds himself in the direction of Osiecki's flat. Osiecki (never mentioned by first name) was a character portrayed in Plexus: a Canadian architect whom Henry met while leaving a bar one night. He and Joe O'Reagan befriended Osiecki, despite his obsessive paranoia and lame girlfriends.

If anyone has easy access to New York City Directories for 1926, let me know if you find an Osiecki in this neighbourhood. When Osiecki was last been mentioned in Plexus, he was back in Canada, but obviously he had returned to Brooklyn by this time.

9.10 pianola
A pianola is a player piano. Osiecki's interest in playing the pianola appears in Plexus on page 116. The next few references appear to be an attempt to summarize Osiecki (who returns later in the story) as he appeared in Plexus.

9.11 “morceaux choisi de”
French for "selected pieces by." Miller uses French phrases throughout his writings, though I've never studied the reasons for his usage. In this case, he seems to be going for playful pretention.

9.12 Dohnanyi
The "pieces" referred to are those by Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960), a Hungarian pianist and composer. On page 628 of Plexus, Miller had mentioned that Osiecki had "conceived a passion" for Dohnanyi.

9.13 "Hail to you, sweet lice"
Again, this is a reference to Osiecki in Plexus, in which he showed a paranoia about lice (probably imaginary) being planted on him by others (Plexus, pgs 101, 114, 115, 166).

9.14 Gowanus Canal
A mist rises above it. Miller then returns home. The Gowanus Canal [right] stems out of Upper New York Harbor and weaves up into Brooklyn, ending just north of Union Street, which is several blocks south-east of Remsen Street. If he was going in this direction, the subway station he referred to earlier may have been Borough Hall or Bergen Street.

9.15 arriving home
The "home" being referred to is 91 Remsen Street, Brooklyn [I'm wrong here--see below]. Miller lived in the basement with Mona and Stasia. Miller then proceeds to grill Mona about seeing her with Jim Driscoll. She denies this and insinutes that he's ill.
**UPDATE JULY 29/06 - After compiling my list of Miller's New York addresses, I realize that he was no longer at #91 Remsen at the time. He had been there in 1925, then moved back to an unknown apartment here in 1927. There's also a chance that he was on Henry Street by this time, though I can't be sure. He and June and Jean moved to Henry St not long after she started staying with them on Remsen Street.

9.16 the rent overdue
Miller was not working (or, was not in gainful employment) at the time (in order to write) and Mona's funds came in waves from admirers. Later, on page 51, it is suggested that Mona and Stasia raised rent money through prostitution or sexual exhibition.

9.17 Six o'clock
Henry has just been out for two hours, looking for Mona.

<--- previous page 8 next page 10 --->